Roll Up Your Sleeves: Reclaiming the Yard Pt. 2

April showers bring May flowers or at least that’s how the saying goes. Around here it’s been rain, rain, and more rain punctuated by a few sunny days. After a week straight, we have sun and I managed to slip out and get a few pictures of our now nice-looking garden beds.

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We started with this:20180428_134015

and this 

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with the latter looking like it belongs at a haunted mansion perhaps?

Last spring and summer we left the garden beds to their own devices. I simply did not have the mental energies to devote to the work. The interior demanded enough of our attention and energy and the thought of having all the work outside as well was exhausting. But this is going to be our year I can feel it in my gut. I donned my work clothes, rolled up my sleeves and away we went!

Weeding is my least favorite chore, and I’m positive most of you would say the same. Clearing the front beds was a relatively painless job, minus having to kneel on the concrete while I weeded. It took me several hours over the course of a couple days to get it weed free. I hauled away buckets of dirt, and then added in a few bags of good topsoil and then we were ready to plant. To keep it low maintenance and still pretty, I chose Hostas for the front. They’re hearty plants, fairly easy to care for, and I won’t have to worry about whether they blossom or not.

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The final touch for the front: a wood chip mulch. Mulch is great for conserving moisture in the soil and helps discourage weed growth. Added bonus: it adds a visual appeal to your garden beds.

With a limited budget and a desire to get this finished as quickly as possible, we decided to opt for bagged mulch vs having a garden center deliver it in bulk. I was hesitant to go with a pre-bagged mulch since you’re never 100% sure of what you will get until you open it. There’s a slight risk of getting bad or moldy mulch, or discoloration in the case of colored brands. We ended up choosing a non-dyed cedar mulch by Timberline and I am very pleased with the results!

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The backyard, however, was an entirely different beast. I spent forty-something minutes digging up what I have now dubbed the ‘mystery root from hell’. It came up in pieces. (The other weeds were no picnic either.)

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It required a spade (my hand trowel was not sufficient, and whatever that long pointy tool is? I believe it’s called a dandelion weeder. Kind of looks like a screwdriver with a notch in the end. I should have taken a before image so I could later identify the plant in case I ran into it again, but I was so caught up in wrestling it out of the ground I forgot.

Several hours over the course of a couple days and the ground was finally weed free and ready to plant. 

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We purchased a garden box kit from Home Depot to save us the hassle of building one from scratch. Since the soil around here is crap (read lots of clay), we purchased a few bags of garden soil so we could ‘start fresh’: a raised bed filled with only good topsoil. The rest we covered in black plastic to discourage weed growth in the hopes we will have a little less to deal with. Now our little herb garden is ready to go, minus the addition of a couple more plants. 

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Our next project will be reworking the fence I built 2 years ago to keep out the fat critters that took up residence underneath our shed. But that’s a post for another time. Until then, cheers!!

Our One Year Farm-iversary!

Hello hello, everyone!

        So… there’s no getting around it, I have been quite the absentee for months now. Things around the farm have been beyond a bit crazy and have left us working double-time in what free time we have to keep things moving smooth”ish”. While I may be a month behind in posting this I’m beyond excited to finally feel I’ve the time to blog again.

As of March 31st, we’d officially spent an entire year in our budding little farm. The amazing thing is how much has happened over the course of one lil’ ol’ year too! Looking back and considering what we’ve learned, experiencing the ups and downs, the painful realization of hindsight after heroically attempted projects, the joy of crossing something off the “to-do” list at long last… It’s been a process to say the least. And this wild ride seemed best to show rather than tell. After all, a photo says a thousand words, right?

 

It’s amazing to think that once upon a time we started out by digging over -200- holes, three feet deep and one foot across, to space out where the fence posts would sit…with the Bobcat that broke down every other hole.

Then there was the day we began setting the final row of posts on our first pasture. That blasted string would never stay taut and yet we prevailed. Seeing our horses content from my porch, morning coffee in hand, worth it.

Watching the evolution of a pile of brambles and clay dug out, filled with drainage gravel and sand before laying out our stall mats, and finally, setting up the floating stall panels. Finally, shade for our paints in the summer!

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As the needs of the land became more apparent with fall approaching and our singular pasture suffering the wrath of one too many horses upon it. And just like that, the beginnings of our second pasture.

And then when life threw us another curveball – we needed a new roof, water was quite literally dripping down the INSIDE of the walls. With a prayer and a bit of elbow grease, the farmhouse was looking better than ever!

We’d thought we’d seen and experienced our fair share of surprises. So naturally we woke up to a winter wonderland…in the deep south. Despite the challenges this posed for our horses and lack of heaters on our water troughs we managed. Plus it was gorgeous!

The new year came and with it brought the lingering chill of winter, did anyone think it would actually end this year? For the first time ever, blankets were a necessity for the horses. As always, Gambit is always ready for an epic photobomb.

Eventually hints of spring began to poke past the chilly temperatures and before we knew it, spring was FINALLY here! It felt as though our little farm came back to life and the scenery was nothing shy of spectacular.

And now as summer is on the horizon, we look back and realize that while the farm is endless work, endless surprises (not always the YES! kind either), and tiring as all get out…the sheer enjoyment we get out of this little slice we call our own paradise is worth it all.

Here’s to our first year and many many more! Cheers!

~Christy

 

It’s That Time of Year Already: Reclaiming the Yard (Pt. 1)

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Spring is in full swing with summer close at its heels. Which means it’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and dig in.

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Sad lawn

First stop: the lawn. The patchy, crabgrass-and-weed-ridden lawn that has been a sore spot the last few years. And if you’ve been following along thus far, you know all too well of my lawncare gripes and my lack of a green thumb. (I did not get that gene despite having several family members who are fantastic gardeners.) As far as the yard goes, we’ve done little lawn care this last year except spreading Scotts Weed and Feed when we remember to. The past two years, I have patch seeded a few of the bare spots which worked for a short while but the new grass was soon choked out by crabgrass and other weeds. At this point, I had all but laid my dreams to rest, of a lush, green lawn brought about by my own hands. The hubby and I began to discuss using a professional company to do the job since it seemed we had all but failed. Not that we had two extra pennies to rub together for such luxuries, but it was a thought nonetheless.

This year we – or rather I – decided to put forth one last ditch effort to have a lawn isn’t quite as cringeworthy. Since I’m home all day, most of the yard work falls to me and I’m determined to have some success this season. We put forth hours of research from various sites, came up with a plan and off we went. Home Depot – our home away from home – here we come!

Step one was dethatching
the lawn. Scott’s describes thatch as “a layer of living and dead grass shoots, stems, and roots that forms between the grass blades and the soil surface”. A little bit is okay, a lot is problematic. Too much thatch can reduce the amount of oxygen and moisture that are able to reach the soil and grass roots. De-thatching removes the excess material so air, water, nutrients, and fertilizer can reach the soil better as well as allow your lawn to drain more effectively.

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Now that you’ve had your vocabulary lesson for the day, it’s back to the work. Over the course of a few days, I cut the grass then worked to dethatch the lawn with the garden rake. (My back and shoulders were none too pleased about this.) It’s not the optimal tool but we tried to work with what we had, not wanting to put forth money for fancy tools we might only use once or twice. Again a rake wasn’t optimal and some areas were definitely harder than others, but after lots of sweat (and a few tears), it got the job done, leaving us with several piles of dead grass material.20180509_152242 (1)

Step two was to aerate the lawn. I’ve found the best time to do this is when the soil is damp, which makes it easier to puncture the ground. Now there are two types of aerators, the first being more machine than a tool (at least all the ones I’ve seen are). A core aerator has hollow tines and pulls 2-in. deep plugs or ‘cores’ of soil and thatch up from the ground. You push (or pull) it along depending on the type. Since we have a very small yard, it seemed unreasonable to buy one (read $50+) and there were none available for rent the day we stocked up, so Plan B it was. Instead, we purchased a spike aerator with four ‘spike’ tines which create a row of 2-in. holes in the ground. You move across the lawn, stopping about every 8 inches to push it into the ground. It’s not quite as effective as the core aerator but it was much more budget friendly. My spouse was kind enough to do this two weeks ago when we first purchased. Unfortunately, it took me awhile to get to the backyard and so I went over the lawn with the aerator once more to be safe.

The final step: spread a thin layer of topsoil over the lawn followed by a mixture of grass seed. We used a mix since neither of us was certain what type of grass was actually growing in our lawn. That and we keep the lawn well watered and wait. It will be a couple of weeks before we see any success or failure so … fingers crossed!

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From Jungle to Field: The beginnings of a second pasture.

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The future site of our next pasture. It lies adjacent to our new CenFlex 4 acre pasture.

Would you just look at that. When I tell you it’s a sight for sore eyes… Darlin’, I ain’t kiddin’!

With only an electric push mower at my disposal, it was simply inconceivable to attempt tackling this 3.5 acre parcel of grass/thistle/weeds that was nearing 4′ in height. Had the mulching kit on my mower even been capable of cutting it down…I would’ve likely bogged down the blades every 5-10′.

(I may know this because at one point earlier on in summer, I tried. I will summarize it briefly: It did not go well.)

On a happier note, by mere chance one day, I happened to be home and you guessed it, mowing the lawn…again…when a neighbor popped by to say hello. They had hired a crew with a few impressive looking dozers and tractors to clear out their acreage to the west of us in order to reclaim the trails that run across them.

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Impressive, right?

The only problem was that the job would take them several days and our neighbor felt uncomfortable leaving the rented equipment just randomly out amongst their acreage. So they proposed, seeing me dripping with sweat and my signature push mower in tow, to have their crew mow down our secondary pasture field for us if we’d allow them to park their vehicles near the barn each night.

I attempted to gracefully accept but I have a feeling my expression gave me away for the “YES YES YES YES YES YES” that was going through my head on repeat. The result was 4′ masterfully cut down and a lovely 6″ left in its place. It’s no longer a ‘jungle out there’ and I can actually stake out the location for our T-Posts we’ll be driving into the soil in preparation of hanging our next pasture fence.

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A properly kept field. So glorious!

Yes, yes, I know. It’s just a picture of a field. But let me remind you, it’s a field now, not a frightening jungle with anacondas, leopards, …and probably your handful of armadillos.

Cheers!

~Christy

From Shabby to well…Shabby Chic!

Though today is a might bit dreary outside, as the last lingering remnants of Hurricane Irma pass over our little farm, the past month has been anything but!

When we first happened upon our home, it had been greatly reclaimed by nature with shrubs and vines covering half of the exterior windows…even those near 10′ up from the ground. Now, while we’re still a constant work in progress when it comes to exterior maintenance of the lawn we have made some progress!

(‘Progress!’I always hear that in my head like Bill Nye the Science Guy when he yells out “SCIENCE!”, how about you?)

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The front entry and porch.

As you can see above on the right, the mudroom’s singular window is all but blocked by a ginormous shrub that may hold plans for world domination. I’ve zero factual basis to back that aside from the fact I said it and that we’ve hacked it down and rounded the surface to a reasonable 4′ and yet it sprouts up as though possessed.

Matter of fact, all of the shrubs are the exact same and yet some grow ridiculously faster than others. Be gentle in your judgement that not a one is of the same shape nor size but A HA! we can see out of nearly all of the front windows now. #takingthesuccesseswhenandwhereican

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The front side yard as you pull up to the house with barn in the distance.

Once more, what seems like a mere photo of grass is to me a STUNNING victory of non-enviable sweat equity as I fought down two feet of tangled weeds, thistle, and the occasional bit of Bermuda grass! Take that Home & Garden, my lawn is finally beginning to look like a photo you hocked before going to print but we’re still a runner up Gosh Daniel!

On the other hand, …perhaps that doesn’t seem all that impressive? BUT WHAT IF I told you that it was achieved with only an electric push mower that isn’t even self propelled? See, see! Now you’re likely cringing at the thought. And why you ask? Because that “small” front side yard is 1/2 an acre. That’s right! Two foot tall jungle of a beast, 1/2 an acre in size, mowed into submission with sheer will power and approximately 11 charges of our mower’s batteries. #endurancewinithout

One thing I both love and hate equally about our property – the near 500′ driveway. The scenic drive in from a long day at work: Priceless. The walk with the varied sounds of nature in the darkness as I walk our waste bins back up from the street: Terrifying.

It should be noted that the 5′ tall grass/weed fiasco bordering our new pasture fence and right side of our drive has been tamed. I’d like to thank the academy, and by that I mean Academy, for selling wonderful workout clothes for all the “hikes” I’ve gotten from this driveway.

 

Cheers to mastering the lawn…somewhat, heck, I’ll drink to that!

~Christy

P.S. No shrubs were harmed in the “taming” of this lawn.

When Two Worlds Collide: Lawn care Woes

Good morning all!

     I realized it has been a quick minute since our last update on the farm. To be blunt, this whirlwind never slows down long enough for my head to stop spinning. Still, no regrets!

Now then…as you can imagine, going from 1/3 of an acre to 15 acres is a bit of a leap. In our previous garden home, we actually considered our lawn to be quite sizable, yes…I know, looking back, I feel silly for ever complaining about mowing it.

Looking back, it was around a year to two years ago that our hand-me-down mower, a.k.a. the one that was left in the garage when we purchased the house, had finally had enough and simply called it quits. There was no fixing it, no helping it, it was done. D-o-n-e, done.

Not wishing to be the social pariah of our neighborhood, we were a part of an HoA community mind you, the Mr. did some research into finding a replacement and came to adore the idea of a battery powered electric mower. No more awful gasoline stench in our garage, quiet, and just as quick to mow. Did I mention it was surprisingly cheaper? Seemed a no-brainer, so we went for it.

Now for the final year in our garden home, it was a wonderful addition to our lawn care regime. Fast forward to purchasing our farmhouse fixer-upper and that we’ve moved from that 1/3 of an acre to 15 acres. Let me just express how terribly quickly one gets over mowing when you only have a 28″ wide blade and the average battery life is one hour before needing to be recharged.

The Mr. or I used to spend about an hour cutting the front and back yard at our previous home once a week and presto, done! Now it takes about four days, six hours each day, to get about 5 acres done. Does it help that we’ve been reclaiming our acreage from nature, seeing as it sat untended for 5 years? Nope, not really. So there I am, day after day, me and my electric push mower vs. the mighty Amazon jungle. I say that literally, I believe our grass gets to around 3-4′ tall after two weeks of not mowing.

Just call me Sisyphus as my stubbornness won’t let the acreage get the better of me…but I don’t even have the excuse of blaming Zeus, nope, all my own doing.

Now I will admit, while one sweats into a puddle out in the humid southern heat hour after hour, I’ve never been tanner AND my arms are beginning to really look great. On the flip side, I likely terrify local wildlife as they watch me charge at a run pushing that mower over the 3-4′ tall sections of weeds.

It’s a jungle out there.

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My throne.

Now I found that during my hourly breaks, due to the batteries recharging, I needed something to do. It was then that ‘the throne’ came to be. I spend a good deal of time cooling off in the shade with some water, staring with one eye twitching at the bane of my existence, I mean…looking at the lawn mower as the batteries charge inside.

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There she is, in all her eco-friendly glory…

 

But to be fair, I mean…the lawn does look pretty fantastic despite the fact I’m working with the poor man’s Mary of lawn mowers here. So to all of the folks with those lovely tractors, driving mowers, and zero turns…check out my ECO-FRIENDLY (it hurts inside…) and mad ELECTRIC PUSH MOWER skills (…make it stop)!

That being said, I’ve begun filling a mason jar with spare change. One day, I will have my zero turn. Just you wait acreage, your days are numbered!

Ciao!

~Christy

Horse Fencing 101: SCIENCE …errr PROGRESS!!!

Morning y’all, don’t mind me … between what feels like two-full time jobs and 5-7 hours a day in the harsh sticky heat of the South I find myself jiving my inner Bill Nye the Science Guy.

It’s been a couple weeks since I last posted photos of the project’s progression from gently rolling weed-filled acres to a proper horse pasture. Now I’ll be straight with you, since I’ve still only access to our battery operated …you heard that right… push mower, it is still very much weed-filled acres, even higher than when we started however. (Lookin’ at you, rain!) BUT…all four sides have every third post set and concreted in place, all the corners posts are concreted in as well as our pasture access gate posts.

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Posts going down to the edge of the southeastern side of the pasture.

Now before I get too excited, as pictures can be quite deceiving, for maximum strength and lowest strain placed upon each individual post, we elected to space our posts 10′ apart. So right now, every 30′ there is a post. So it looks like we’re ready to attach fasteners and start unrolling the CenFlex but alas… I’ve still a solid 60 posts to set and backfill with our gravel/sand mixture.

Now that…THAT in itself is the right bugger of this project. On average once loaded up with backfill our wheelbarrow weighs about 50-60lbs. Hauling this up and down a 4 acre hill is a terrifyingly spectacular thing to witness…at least when I’m the one doing it. A few trips ‘down’ and I start envisioning myself just tipping over or the wheelbarrow tire going flat. A dozen trips ‘down’ and I start to imagine sitting on top and magically riding it down and squealing to a stop just before the post hole. Like I said, I spend a lot of time in the sun doing a simple but very tedious task over and over and over. Your mind starts to wander.

…to be continued.

Lawncare 101: More Harsh Realities

There’s that old saying, “Sometimes you have to break it down before you can build it up again.” At least I think that’s how it goes. Anyway, I think I’ve mentioned how much I love/hate spring time. I mean, I love the growing part and everything getting green and pretty. Everything up to that point I could do without. Like our lawn. Our poor half dead yard at which I’ve been raking and digging and pulling weeds and dead crabgrass  – hence the uh, breaking part.

 

I mean, there’s been a lot of reseeding too but so far not a lot of results beyond a few sprouts. Out of all the things we’ve invested our money in, the yard has produced the least results. Every time I think I have a handle on things, I get thrown for a loop.

And with everything going on inside, combined with some very crazy spring weather, I have barely even touched the garden. Here it is mid-may and not a single thing has been planted and what weed pulling I’ve been able to do has been very sporadic. I feel a repeat of our first year coming on. img_20170516_125805750-e1494955393109.jpg

Now a few things survived the winter, which thankfully, is pretty mild compared to the midwest winters I grew up with. At this point, maybe I’ll just leave the garden be and focus on the lawn? Hmm… Maybe I just wasn’t meant to be one of those green thumb people? On the list of things I’d gladly hire a pro to handle, my yard pretty close to the top. Will I get the satisfaction of doing it myself and seeing all my hard work pay off? No. But I’m good with that. At least today I am.

One of these days I’ll have a pretty lawn and a nice garden I swear.. One of these days…

Fencing 101: Real Talk

In every DIY project you undertake, no matter how big or small the job is, there will always be a pivotal moment in which you ask yourself, “Am I still glad we chose to do this or am I filled with regret?” Now generally speaking, I’m a ‘you can’t cut the wind from my sails’ kind of gal but let’s just say that the previous gust propelling us through this project has dwindled to a passing breeze.

Now I can assure you that these long labor-intensive hours spent beneath an unforgiving sun haven’t curbed my enthusiasm, even seven weeks in. Why? Because this equestrian CANNOT wait to have her horses home and grazing in her front pasture. I envision watching them enjoying a summer morning as I’m looking out my kitchen window. That vision, …that alone… has kept me moving forward through every conceivable problem that can happen when trying to muster manpower, funds, time, and energy to put in 4 acres of pasture fencing.

So what did it? What has me so deflated?

Our friend that we hired to help us? …well he had to quit today. His new job is going to lessen his availability and while we are thrilled for him and this new opportunity it unfortunately has left myself and the Mr. holding the bag when we’ve SO MUCH work to do and two weeks left till the horses come home.

What’s a girl to do? Well, this particular girl wasn’t having it. I’m not a quitter, never have been and I don’t intend to start now. So instead of wasting time moping and stressing, which solves every problem (said no one ever) am I right? I grabbed the shovel and wheelbarrow and started shoveling backfill gravel like a woman possessed.

Five hours under that sun, a bad glove-edge tan line, and bug bites from here to New Zealand (hi kangaroos!) I have another 11 posts set in concrete and 10 more, that were set yesterday, backfilled with gravel and sand.

That’s right, this gal has ALL of the concreted posts -done-. Now…we still have another 60 or so posts to set with gravel and sand BUT…just let me have this little triumph born from sheer Irish stubbornness.

Now if you would please pardon me, I’m going to go collapse on the sofa for a ‘Netflix and chill’ kind of evening.

Until next time!

~Christy

Yardcare 101: A How NOT to Guide.

We’re a bit late getting to the lawn and garden this year. The house has been occupying the majority of our time as we prep the ceiling and the floors. So yesterday while it was a beautiful sunny 65 degrees out, we figured it was the perfect chance.

And then, as per usual, the unexpected happened. So I decided to post this handy dandy guide as a warning to others who might be working on their yards.

Step 1: Have your child dig holes in the yard.

“See, if you dig up the dirt with the baby rake like this, then I can sprinkle grass seed.”
“I’m just going to dig a mine over here like in Minecraft.”
“Okay but don’t dig your hole in the middle of the lawn.”
“But it’s not in the middle. The middle is somewhere over in that area.”
“Okay, you got me there kiddo. How about you don’t dig holes in the lawn at all.  Go dig in the dirt over by the garden area while I rake up the yard to get ready for grass seed.”

Two minutes later…

“I need something to cut and destroy this dead plant.” (as he comes out of the shed with my pruning shears, which, thankfully, are locked in the closed position.)
“Oh no. Not the shears. I’ll take those”
“These aren’t shears. I can’t even open them to cut this dead plant.” (puts the shears back out of frustration of not being able to open them)
“I’ll take care of the dead plant. Would you please go help your daddy?”
“Can I use this to get the plant?” (comes out with the hand weeder)
“Not that either. Now go inside and help your daddy.”

Step 2: Stop working because you found strange things
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If I learned anything from Sesame Street, it’s that certain things belong in certain places and some things just don’t belong together at all.  Quietly sings, “Some of these things are not like the others. some of these things just don’t belong.”

On the list of “what I expect to dig up in my garden” are items such as leaves, bugs/worms, sticks, rocks, and roots.
What’s not on that list: shells (thankfully most of them have been small), rusted nails, unusual pieces of wood, concrete, and/or metal.

I’m just…so baffled.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll find body parts next. Yikes.